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Discussion Questions for Summer in Mossy Creek

1. Mossy Creek Chief of Police Amos Royden isn’t a fan of what he refers to as the “gray zone” of law enforcement. Why does he hate police matters that aren’t black and white? For what does he risk stepping into the gray zone? Why?

2. Several stories in this collection explore the darker side of friendship—fights and feuds. What did Grace Peacock and her neighbor Mamie Brown, Inez Hamilton Hilley and her cousin Ardaleen Bigelow, Sara-Beth Connelly and former BFF (Best Friend Forever) Carolee Langford, Lila Spivey and her unwitting nemesis Fryzeen Sneerly feud over? What caused some of these women to make amends? What prevented others from doing so?

3. “Louise and Jack” and “Hope and Marle” deal with lost loves returning to Mossy Creek. What kept Louise and Jack from exploring their feelings in the past? What keeps them apart now? Why are Hope and Marle able to reconcile the past with their present and embrace a future together? 

4. In “Louise and Jack,” we discover that prejudice against inter-racial relationships existed in the past even in idyllic Mossy Creek. Do you think either Jack or Louise regrets his or her choice to give in to societal and familial pressures? Has the South changed enough that inter-racial relationships and marriages are any easier today? Why, or why not?

5. How death affects friendship is explored in “Sadie and Etta” and in “Laurie and Tweedle Dee.” What legacy does Etta leave Sadie? What does Laurie leave Tweedle Dee? What things has a dying relative or friend left you? What life lessons do you think were embedded in these items?

6. Friendship makes strange bedfellows in a few of the stories. For example, Laurie and her pet canary Tweedle Dee, Opal and her sisters’ spirits, Lucy Belle and her grandmother-in-crime Inez Hamilton Hilley. What other unusual friendships were explored in this and other Mossy Creek anthologies? What benefits do people gain from befriending others far different from them and their experience?

7. Relationships between sisters are explored in “Opal and the Suggs Sisters” and “Therese and the Stroud Women.” How are the sisters in these stories friends? How are they enemies? Why is the sister bond in Opal’s story so strong that it transcends death? What other books or movies have you read or seen that explore sisters’ lives? Why do you think authors never seem to tire of exploring the nuances of biological and figurative sisterhood?

8. Several authors use Southern traditions in observing death in their stories’ settings. In “Sadie and Etta,” we learn that Ben and Sadie buried Etta in her favorite spot, under the Sitting Tree, and that they honor her by putting wildflowers on her grave every year on their anniversary. In “Therese and the Stroud Women,” Therese learns from Granny Georgie and the aunts how to care for the graves of her relatives in the Old Baptist Cemetery. In “Louise and Jack,” friends and family gather at the deceased person’s house for food and comfort. What traditions do you follow when a loved one passes? Which of these traditions are related to your family background; which are related to the part of the country you live in?

9. Sara-Beth Connelly misses the “You too?” moments she shared with estranged friend Carolee Langford. Did you ever have a friendship as strong as the one Sara-Beth and Carolee shared before the betrayal? Describe one of those “You too?” moments you experienced with your best friend.

10. At ten years old, Therese Taylor follows Mayor Ida’s advice to look for Opportunity. In doing so, she accompanies her grandmother and aunts to their monthly clean-up at the Old Baptist Cemetery and discovers who she is. How old were you when you discovered who you are? What special or ordinary event in your life helped you determine your place in the world?

11. In “Laurie and Tweedle Dee,” Laurie Grey knew she was dying and set out to spend what remained of her life doing what she’d always wanted to do—writing stories and sharing them with others. If you were given a similar diagnosis, what would you do in the time you had remaining? With whom would you spend your time?

12. In “Amos and Dog,” Amos decides to let Ida “draw her own conclusions about if there was or was not a little spark of chemistry” between them. Will Ida ever admit to feeling something other than respect or friendship for Amos? Why, or why not?